Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson announced on Wednesday the launch of a cease and desist order against BlackRock, aimed at stopping alleged “fraudulent action” by the investment giant and aiming to impose a multimillion-dollar administrative penalty, over the company’s ESG investment policies.

The order, filed by the Securities Division of the Secretary of State’s Office, claims that BlackRock makes “untrue and misleading statements,” particularly related to “pushing Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) factors on portfolio companies. A statement by the Secretary’s office added that BlackRock has “asserted itself as a leader in the investment industry” in these ESG practices.

The order specifies two primary categories of allegedly misleading statements by BlackRock, including those related to funds that are marketed by the investment manager as non-ESG funds, as well as to those marketed as ESG funds.

For the non-ESG funds, the order says that investors are led to believe that the funds are managed without regard to ESG criteria, while claiming that this is untrue, citing BlackRock’s participation in groups such as the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative and Climate Action 100+ (CA100+), which the order said include commitments by participants to use all assets under management to achieve climate-related goals and to direct engagement activities.

BlackRock recently shifted its participation in Climate Action 100+ to its international unit, citing a new strategy by CA100+ that would require signatories to commit to use client assets to pursue emissions reductions in portfolio companies. In a letter to CA100+ published on the asset manager’s website, BlackRock said that “the money BlackRock manages is not our own—it belongs to our clients—and BlackRock is committed to providing clients around the world with choices to support their unique and varied investment objectives.” BlackRock’s website also carries a ‘2030 net zero statement,’ which states that “our role is to help them navigate investment risks and opportunities, not to engineer a specific decarbonization outcome in the real economy.”

With regard to the ESG funds, the order said that BlackRock made “deceptive statements,” including “claims that ESG benefits companies’ long-term financial prospects and drives financial outcomes for clients,” that it alleges are not true “because the consideration of ESG factors does not provide an indication of better financial returns or current or future risk profiles,” according to the filing.

In a statement announcing the order, Watson said:

“Investment companies will not push their political agenda on Mississippians, especially through fraudulent and deceptive means. All citizens should have the opportunity to make informed and educated decisions when investing their hard-earned money. If not, our office will hold these bad actors accountable.”

BlackRock, as the largest global investment management company, and a leading voice in the investment community on climate and energy transition-related investment themes, has found itself at the center of a vocal anti-ESG movement by Republican politicians in the U.S., who have accused the firm of following a social agenda, or of “boycotting” and working to harm energy companies.

In a similar case in December, Tennessee’s Attorney General launched a lawsuit against the firm, alleging that BlackRock misrepresented the extent to which it uses ESG considerations in its investment strategies, including in those that do not have a stated sustainability focus, which also cited BlackRock’s participation in NZAM and Climate Action 100+. Most recently, Texas’ State Board of Education announced earlier this month that it was pulling $8.5 billion in funds from BlackRock, with a statement by the Board’s Chairman citing BlackRock’s “dominant and persistent leadership in the ESG movement.”

In a statement following the order, a BlackRock spokesperson said:

“Many policymakers and government officials have ideas on how we should invest our clients’ assets. We are always bound to invest consistent with our clients’ choices, their best financial interests, and applicable law. Our only agenda is maximizing risk-adjusted returns for the funds our clients choose to invest in. We operate in one of the most highly regulated industries in the country and are committed to following the law in every respect.”